reeling.

In practically no time, we had gone from being a growing new indie label with a popular new title and plans for seven or eight new releases to being a sputtering micro-indie with nothing on the horizon.  Toast and Chocolate USA had disappeared, Gapeseed was working on a new CD with Silver Girl, the Footstone CD was in terminal mixdown, the Schoolhouse CD had fizzled, the Mommyheads were working on a new CD for another label, cuppa joe were mad at me.  We had an embarrassment of riches disappear into a fog of hazy, incomplete plans in no time.

Rich and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do next.  I liked the Cheap Trick tribute concept, but he did not.  Rich thought that tribute records were overdone – and he was right – but I still liked the idea for two reasons.  First, it gave me a reason to stay engaged with all the different bands we had been discussing Schoolhouse with.  Second, I really, really wanted to hear Footstone do “He’s A Whore.”  That song was tailor made for them, and I knew they weren’t averse to doing cover songs.

With no other full-lengths on the horizon, I turned my attention to Dots Will Echo, who were planning on putting out a CD on Dromedary (paid for by the band).  Nick and I started getting a little closer, and he began sending me multiple tapes of songs the band had recorded.  It seemed almost as if he had an inexhaustible supply of music, and an equally inexhaustible supply of ideas for how that music should be presented.  I suppose a long layoff inbetween albums will do that to a guy.

“I don’t want to print a booklet,” Nick said on the phone one day.  “Who silkscreened your cuppa joe CD?”

“Oh, jeez, you don’t want to silkscreen CD booklets,” I said.  “It’s an absolute nightmare.  It will be the worst thing you ever did.”

“No, I don’t want to silkscreen booklets, either.  I want to silkscreen right onto the jewel box.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, so I asked for clarification.

“Do you have the ability to get colored jewel boxes where you work?”  My company imported empty jewel boxes and sold them to its retail customers in packs of 10, 25, even 100.  This is before the days of CD burners, so I have no idea why they sold them, but they did.  

“They come in all different colors, but they’re expensive,” I explained.  “Much more expensive than if you buy them directly from the CD replicator.  Why?”

“I want a neon yellow jewel box.  Then I want to print ‘Dots Will Echo’ in hot pink, right on the front of the jewel box.  No booklet.”

“What about liner notes?  Pictures?  People like that stuff,” I explained.  “I don’t think that’s the best idea.”

“Trust me, I think it will look cool.  And it will jump out at you when you’re looking through piles of CDs at the record store.”

I tried to envision a day when bands put their CDs in colored jewel boxes so they would ‘stand out,’ the result being a rainbow of candy-colored CDs, all in rows on a record store shelf, all indistinguishable from each other in their sameness.  Kinda like going to a punk show and looking at all the people expressing their individuality together, all dressed in leather, all with spiked, neon-colored hair, all with bizarre piercings and tattoos, all looking exactly the same, and glaring at us for being the only people there in plain jeans and T-shirts.

I had completely lost track of Footstone, and what was going on with Lippy.  I had begun to think it might never come out.  They recorded it and didn’t like it.  They re-recorded parts of it, then didn’t like the mix.  They remixed it.  I actually think they might have remixed it twice.  I was starting to think I was dealing with Tom Scholz and Boston, re-recording things to the point where the band simply faded into oblivion, never releasing anything.  I wondered if Ralph and Mark were going to hand me Lippy fifteen years in the future, in 2008, and say “Here.  It’s finally done.  Put it out.”

The only thing that kept me from truly thinking that was that the band kept playing shows and writing new songs.  Somewhere along the line, Footstone had gone from being a decent local band that was able to play shows at places like Maxwells and CBGB and Continental as one of the bands that came on at 9:00, to being the band who could play those clubs on a Friday or Saturday night, on a bill with three or four bands that went on first.  Footstone was the band filling up the room, with their name written the largest in the club’s ads for that night.  For lack of a better word, because the club scene really didn’t work this way, Footstone had evolved into a “headliner.”

They played everywhere.  Down the shore, they’d play at the Saint, the Fastlane and the Brighton Bar.  They could play at the Melody or the Court Tavern in New Brunswick.  In Hoboken, they pretty much only played Maxwell’s anymore.  In the city, they’d play anywhere – but had gotten to the point where they really only played the better clubs.  No more Bond Street Cafe for Footstone.

Jim Testa was the first person to point it out to me.  “They’ve been together for so long,” he said, “and I always sort of took them for granted.  All of a sudden, I look around, and there’s Footstone – drawing crowds, playing big shows.  Most bands just appear there suddenly – they get a big buzz, and all of a sudden from out of nowhere, they’re Monster Magnet or Sweet Lizard Illtet.  Footstone did it slowly, they earned it.”

Suddenly, bands from all over the state wanted to play with Footstone.  And since the guys in Footstone were friends with everybody, they were happy to oblige.  Down the shore, they latched onto a surf punk band called Kid With Man Head – a pretty popular band in their own right, who were a fast, pop/punk band like All, incorporating humor into their music (much like Footstone).  Up north, they had a heavier, punk/pop band called Friends, Romans, Countrymen that set up a lot of shows for them.  They also did shows with American Standard and Outcrowd (although I think by late 1994, Outcrowd was all gone), where as many people were coming to see Footstone as the other two bands.

All that was fine.  Footstone was popular.  Dots Will Echo were working on a CD.  But with the Mommyheads’ tour drawing to a close, and no records to put out, we were limping toward the end of 1994, reeling, with no concrete plans for what was to come next.

~ by Al on July 12, 2009.

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